This article is part three of a seven part series on my perspective on building teams. You can read the rest of the series on my blog at http://www.kennethbaucum.com/tag/team-building. While I’m sharing anonymous examples of situations based on real experiences, the series should not be construed as an attack or disparagement on any specific organization I’m involved with, but rather as a list of my thoughts on how to improve teams in general. I look forward to your constructive criticisms and thoughts.
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“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Frequent and relevant communication with your team will greatly enhance their feeling of involvement and belonging. By remaining silent, your team may begin to wonder if they are just a collection of individual resources, or if they are truly working toward common goals. Many IT teams across the country are beginning to realize this, too, as companies with offices around the globe try to coordinate resources on projects and want to create meaningful growth. Suddenly, they find that it’s difficult to maintain good communication across city, state or country borders without a practical and strategic plan to communicate. In the IT space, teams are adapting the concept of having daily calls to help keep resources talking to each other and keeping them aware of other things happening across the enterprise. In some cases, teams that were spread out across separate cities or states might not hear from their team outside their office for hours or even days, and could become concerned that they are falling out of the loop. It’s nice to hear that voice on the other side to confirm that they’re still there and you’re still fighting the same battles and making small wins each day together. They are starting to use tools like Kanban, Scrum and Agile, specifically focusing on holding a daily “standup” during which team members can quickly review what’s working, not working and they can see how their individual tasks fit into the larger picture.
A lack of communication could signal a lack of planning, a lack of respect for your team’s opinions, and a lack of desire on your part to receiving their help. When you are part of a group, you might expect that it would be easy to communicate about tasks when you’re working on the same project. In reality, you’ll begin to note that a team mate might start to take the initiative to get things started, but if they don’t start sharing with their team the activities they’re working on, other members might start working on the same issues, effectively stepping on each others toes and getting the team bound into two separate courses of action. Good planning and open communication from the beginning is the best way to avoid surprises and keep things above the table for all to see.
Enhancing your communication with your team opens up the flow of information and helps build trust and credibility among all contributing members. By focusing on talking more often, and by sharing – even oversharing – your plans and intentions with your team, you will enable them to paint a bigger picture and to feel a measure of value in what they can add. You’ll empower them to jump in and grab onto the pieces of the work that they enjoy and give them an opportunity to be satisfied and completely fulfilled in their work, rather than them waiting on an assignment or wondering how long things will drag on. You do remember that time flies when you’re having fun, right?
Have you watched “The Office?” You know, Jim and Pam, right? Do you recall when they realized their communication wasn’t working and they needed to be more honest and talk more frequently with each other? Do that with your team. Don’t be cheesy (if you can avoid it), but do tell them that you’re working on making things better, and then tell them how, and give them a chance to respond.
For the love of all things good, please don’t argue about things without some sort of evidence or a tangible product to refer to or point at. If you have a complaint about someone, be specific when you talk about it so the issue can be worked out. If you have a plan to change something, write it down. Discuss those written words and make changes to them, rather than assuming that the team can read your mind and understand your intents. It doesn’t matter if what you write down is wrong, it matters that it gets written down. Until you have something solid to work with, you will simply go around and around and spin your wheels, without progress.
I’d like to take a moment to point out something about communication in the paragraphs above. Did you see me write “manager” or “employees”? No, I did not. It does not matter your position — you are responsible for improving communication in your team. Don’t wait on someone else. Just start talking. Start writing. Get something in front of the team.
What other communication tips do you have? What has helped you personally in your relationships? What has helped you at work with your teammates? What about school or church?
Talk. Talk. Talk.
In the next article, we’ll begin to deep-dive into the topic of training, where we’ll discuss some specific examples of opportunities for self-improvement and team building. Remember that you are in control of your future, and things you do today to make yourself better will affect who you are tomorrow.